Dubai: Seventeen-year-old Dubai-resident Ruby Linton has dreams of playing for England after becoming the first UAE-based female footballer to receive a full four-year scholarship at a North American university this week.
Linton, who only started playing football at the age of 13 and is still studying at GEMS World Academy Dubai, signed a full scholarship with Bowling Green State University, who play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division One Women’s Soccer Championship.
The Ohio-based university has committed US$30,000 (Dh110,000) a year for four years to cover her complete academic and sporting education.
For the past four years she has been training at the Spanish Soccer Schools (SSS) in Dubai Sports City, which is run by former Real Madrid and Spain defender Michel Salgado, and managed by The Royal Emirates Sporting Academy (TRESA), which is presided over by former LA Galaxy and Sweden winger Christian Wilhelmsson.
“I’m really proud of myself for becoming the first to earn a full scholarship and grateful to the fantastic coaches here who have helped me,” said Linton, who is originally from London and developed her game by playing alongside the boys at Dubai Sports City.
“I couldn’t have done it without Spanish Soccer Schools who helped me with connections and organising trips to the US, as well as developing me technically and tactically to become a great all-round player.
“I hope I can become a role model to other young girls in the UAE and encourage them all to play more football.”
Salgado said: “When I first came to the UAE and opened an academy five years ago it was my dream to provide kids with such opportunities.
“This is one of my proudest moments after my football career, and I’m really happy for Ruby. It’s a turning point for the academy, there will be a before and after Ruby, she is leading the way now for others to follow.
“It’s also great for women’s football locally,” he added. “We need to push it, it’s getting big worldwide but also regionally in the Arab world. Women want to play and get involved. It’s very important women are given the same opportunities to do sports and play football, and Ruby is the perfect example for us to challenge and push others to follow her path.”
Wilhelmsson agreed: “This is the first of many scholarships to come not only in football but also all sports that come under our vision. This proves the level of our organisation and coaching and shows we have the correct approach. It also shows that women can achieve at any level in any region.”
TRESA oversees all sporting academies at Dubai Sports City with the view to increase the quality of its offering, one initiative being the new Study and Play programme, which aims to ensure academic as well sporting development.
SSS regularly offers players the chance to play friendlies against top European youth sides and is now forging greater links with overseas universities to continue the Study and Play philosophy.